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Glenn Howard heads into Olympic bid without long-time teammate Richard Hart

Glenn Howard tells CBC Sports that longtime teammate Richard Hart is not able to play in the Road to the Roar pre-trials in Summerside, P.E.I., because of injury.

Hart let Howard know he won’t be able to play because of knee injury

Richard Hart, left, longtime teammate of skip Glenn Howard, right, won't be able to participate in the rink's bid for a spot in the PyeongChang Olympics in February. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

One of Canada's most decorated curlers will have to take his last shot at the Olympics without a key member of his rink.

Glenn Howard told CBC Sports that longtime teammate Richard Hart is not able to play in the Road to the Roar pre-trials in Summerside, P.E.I., because of injury. The competition runs Nov. 6-12.

"His knees are in pretty rough shape right now," Howard said. "He's tried to make it happen over the last couple of weeks but just informed us it's not going to happen."

The news is clearly disappointing to the 55-year-old four-time world champion from Midland, Ont. 

Hoping for swan song

"Rich and I have been through the war together," Howard said. "We've had so many successes and ups and downs. We were hoping this would be our swan song. I'm definitely not going another Olympic cycle. Rich isn't either. This was going to be our last kick at it. It's very disappointing, probably more so for him."

Howard and Hart first joined forces during the 2000-01 season. Since that time the two have played on the same team 13 out of the past 17 curling seasons. They won a Brier and world title together in 2007. Howard, Hart, Brent Laing and Craig Savill lost the 2009 Olympic trials final to Kevin Martin's team for the right to represent Canada at the Vancouver Games in 2010.

They have won so many games over the years, but for Howard, that Olympic dream is still missing. That's why this is even more difficult for Howard.

"It wasn't the plan," he said. "Two or three years ago the plan was for us to all be there."

Two weeks ago the Howard rink entered the Canad Inns Men's Classic in Portage la Prairie, Man., without Hart. They had to make some quick changes at positions which left Howard's son, Scott Howard, playing third. David Mathers stayed at his familiar second spot and lead was taken over by Fraser Reid.

They made it all the way to the final before losing to Reid Carruthers team.

"Scott at third was awesome. I was very proud of him. He didn't let the position overwhelm him. We all played great," Howard said.

Adam Spencer will throw third

But there are more changes coming less than two weeks before the pre-trials. Howard has called his "super spare," Adam Spencer, to take over at third for the team.

"Thank god for him because he's one of the best curlers out there," Howard said. "He hasn't curled all that much this year, so I threw a little heat at him and put some pressure on him."

Last season, Spencer spent time with Brad Gushue's rink. Two years ago he was a fifth with the Howard team, now reunited leading into the qualify for the Olympic trials.

"Depending on how well we do there we'll assess as we go there," Howard said.

At this point, Howard says they don't really have a plan for a fifth player. But he says they'll do everything they can to make sure Hart feels a part of this last Olympic journey.

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